Luke Lewis is looking forward to getting a gauge on where the 2015 Sharks rate with the competition heavyweights, while Michael Ennis is anticipating a stern test of their premiership credentials when they host the Melbourne Storm on Monday night.
In a match which can keep the Sharks well and truly in the running for a top four berth, a Storm team led by Australian captain Cameron Smith and Kangaroo and Queensland number seven Cooper Cronk will be equally keen to continue their march to the finals with a win away from home.
Outstanding for the Sharks this season, Ennis realises the difficulty of the task facing his team tomorrow night.
“It’s a huge game on Monday night. A massive challenge for us,” Ennis said.
While for Lewis, in his first game for three weeks after being injured in the win over the Bulldogs, he too knows Melbourne will provide a stern examination just four weeks out from the finals.
“We haven’t beaten Melbourne in a couple of years and had a tough loss to them earlier this season. But it should be a good test to see where we’re at and I’m expecting a pretty tight game,” Lewis added.
The Sharks continued their outstanding run of form last weekend with a victory over the Cowboys, for their eighth win from their past nine matches and their fifth in a row.
The wins have been a result of a committed defense and improving attack and as Ennis explains, due to a total team effort.
“We need 17 blokes really contributing each week and at this stage we’ve really got that. We’ve got guys right across the board contributing,” he said.
However while every member of the Sharks squad will need to carry out their role, Lewis shapes as a key component and his return is set to be a major bonus for the Cronulla side.
Prior to his enforced two game break Lewis was displaying some of his best form since joining the Sharks in 2013, scoring nine tries in 16 matches after having built up a strong combination with his experienced hooker.
“I’ve managed to score a few tries, I think about eight from Mick Ennis try assists,” Lewis joked, in what may have been a slight exaggerating but at the same time emphasizing the partnership the pair had formed this season.
And while his teammates will be happy to have him back, Lewis is pleased to be returning to the field tomorrow night.
“It’s been a tough couple of weeks watching the boys run around but I’m really looking forward to running out with the guys and hopefully putting in another good performance like we did against the Cowboys,” Lewis said.
In the only changes to the team which beat the Cowboys, Lewis’s inclusion in the Sharks run-on side sees Anthony Tupou drop back to the bench, while Matt Prior comes into the starting side in place of the suspended Sam Tagataese.
Should they hope to continue their roll towards the finals and potentially a top four berth, the Sharks will need to end a four-game Melbourne winning streak in matches between the two teams dating back to 2012.
Significantly however the last Sharks win came in their most recent encounter on home soil, a 12-10 victory early in the 2012 season.
In all matches played between the two clubs the Storm hold a 19-9 win advantage, while in the 11 games contested at Remondis Stadium it is six victories to the visitors and five to the Sharks.
The Sharks v Storm clash kicks off at 7.00pm at Remondis Stadium on Monday night and is the only game scheduled on the night with the NYC Sharks playing out a 28-all draw with Melbourne in a stand-alone game yesterday.
Monday night will also see the Sharks support Unite for Kurt, with fundraising activities to take place for badly injured former NYC player Kurt Drysdale.
A special Unite for Kurt ticketing offer sees $5 from pre-purchased general admission tickets go directly to the fundraising initiative.
A group of NRL identities will also walk from Heathcote to Remondis Stadium on game day in a bid to also raise much-needed funds for Drysdale’s on-going medical needs.